Jordan Morrow, Vice President & Head of Data and Analytics, BrainStorm Inc.

Jordan Morrow is known as the “Godfather of Data Literacy”, having helped pioneer the field by building one of the world’s first data literacy programs and driving thought leadership. Jordan is Vice President and Head of Data And Analytics at BrainStorm, Inc., and a global trailblazer in the world of data literacy.  He served as the Chair of the Advisory Board for The Data Literacy Project, has spoken at numerous conferences around the world, and is an active voice in the data and analytics community. He has also helped companies and organizations around the world, including the United Nations, build and understand data literacy.


It is no secret; the world is inundated with data and buzz words that surround that world of data.  Have you ever heard the term data literacy?  Data driven?  Machine Learning?  Data Science?  Hadoop?  Big Data?  The reality is, there are many topics that sit within the world of data and analytics, and these worlds are powerful.  But, while these topics are powerful and wonderful, there is misunderstanding on topics within the world of data and analytics.  Two topics that have misunderstanding and confusion, plus represent two of the most important topics within the space of data and analytics, are data driven and data literacy.  What does it mean to be data driven?  What is data literacy?  And how can individuals and organizations be better in these topics?  Let’s jump in to find out.

The term data driven is one that organizations and individuals need to cope with more.  To be fair and honest, some people do not like this term.  The reason they do not like it is because to them it means that the data will drive things.  To me, that is not what it means.  To be data driven means that data is a part of the process to make decisions.  Pretty simple, right?  For an organization, it could be that the organization utilizes data as a tool that empowers the organization to meet its goals and objectives.  For an individual, it is the same.  It is that the individual utilizes data as a tool to help them make decisions in their lives.  It is not that difficult, but where does the human element come into play here?

In being a data driven organization or individual, the human element is essential.  What we want to do is combine both the human element and the data element to make decisions.  That is pretty simple.  In our lives, we have many tools and technologies that are around us each and every day that empower us.  For example, I am writing this write now on my work laptop.  We probably all have smartphones at this point, which is a tool and technology that helps us in our lives.  Data is another one of those things.  We can utilize data in our lives to help us make better decisions.  It is a part of what we can use, just like our gut feel, ideas, and thoughts are a part of us.  What we want to do is combine our ideas, gut feel, experience, and human element with the data element.  These can raise a question or point though: what if we are not comfortable utilizing data in our lives, how can we use it?  In steps the world of data literacy.

Now, I want to make one thing clear to start: everyone is data literate, but what we want to do is empower everyone to get better with data in some way.  The definition of data literacy, and this comes from Qlik, the company I worked for when I helped to pioneer and invent the field of data literacy, is: the ability to read, work with, analyze, and communicate with data.  Those are four key elements or characteristics that make up the definition of data literacy.  Not complicated, not the advanced technical thing that individuals may think of when they think of data and analytics.  Also notice that within the definition, the term data science is not there.  We don’t want to turn everyone into data scientists.  No, instead, we want to empower individuals and organizations to utilize data effectively to help them meet personal goals and objectives, or to meet business goals and objectives.  So, what we want to do for you reading and for organizations is to empower everyone with data literacy skills to help them be more data driven.  How can we do this?

The first thing I want to talk about is the 3 C’s of data literacy: curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking.  What do I mean here?  First, I want people to be more curious.  Ask more and more questions.  They don’t have to be advanced, but don’t just take things at face value. No, work through them and question them.  Be a data skeptic and not a data cynic.  The world is doing an amazing job of creating data cynics.  I want data skeptics.  Second, be more creativity.  Data and analytics can be boring, but you know what has within them the power to be creative?  We all do!  Bring your creativity to the data.  Finally, critically think.  Don’t take things at face value, question them, and think deeply on them.

Now, after you start to utilize the 3 C’s of data literacy more, then you can develop more technical skills.  You don’t have to be advanced, no, but learn technical skills that can empower you to be more powerful with data.

Overall, the world of data is here to stay.  Harness it.  Embrace it.  Become more data literate and data driven!

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